Kyle Zolkin

Molecular weight dependence of plastic (PCL) degradation by an embedded enzyme-RHP complex

The environmental plastic problems that plague our planet have become increasingly threatening and an urgent need to solve this epidemic has arisen. Efforts to mitigate this damage have been made but recycling approaches are inefficient and do not eliminate microplastics and enzymatic plastic degradation is costly and diffusion limited. We have proposed a nanoscopic dispersion of enzyme in plastic complexes, creating fully functional materials that have programmable degradation and do not create microplastics. While these complexes are effective in eliminating microplastics, the mechanism in which they do so is still disputed. The characterization of this complex is crucial in understanding its mechanism and whether it can be tuned to cater towards different environmental conditions. By changing the plastic(PCL) matrix chain length, we add another tunable factor as well as allowing us to gather important information on the mechanism behind its binding and degradation. Insights gained here can provide a general roadmap for exploiting semicrystalline morphology to control plastic degradation

Message to Sponsor

I really appreciated this opportunity to learn and grow as a researcher. I gained valuable skills, including being able to work remotely and support data analysis and literature searches, as well as see a project through from its conception to design to final manuscript. I want to pursue a graduate degree and SURF has helped me narrow down what I want to study. I have gained a new perspective on writing as well as using literature to support my work and I hope to continue growing as a researcher.
  • Major: Chemical Biology
  • Sponsor: SURF Rose Hills Experience
  • Mentor: Ting Xu (grad student Chris Delre)